Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Final Launch of a Delta IV Medium Set for Tomorrow

The targeted time for launch of a Delta IV Medium is tomorrow morning at 0900 EDT on the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.  This will be the final launch of the Delta IV "single stick" configuration, which has had 29 successful launches in its 17 year history.  The Delta family name dates back to the earliest days of spaceflight with the first Delta launch in 1960.  The three-booster member of the family, the Delta IV Heavy will continue to fly at least into the mid-20s.  The National Reconnaissance Office, using the Air Force as a contracting agent, has contracts in place for at least five more Delta 4-Heavy missions through 2024.

United Launch Alliance, the company behind the Delta family as well as the Atlas family has said that the capabilities of the Medium match those of its Atlas 5 well enough that they are going to have  one launcher and will use the Atlas 5 for payloads that match its capabilities.  Only the Atlas V and the Delta IV Heavy will remain on ULA’s books until its Vulcan-Centaur heavylifter enters service in April 2021.

The payload is a Lockheed-Martin-built GPS 3 SV02 satellite nicknamed Magellan; as the SV02 implies, it's the second in a new series of GPS satellites.  The first was launched last December aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9. 

Artistic view of a Delta IV Medium launch, March 2015. Photo Credit: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace

I couldn't tell you how many Delta launches I've watched from home.  I couldn't tell you how many launches I've watched.  I can only say I've seen all but a couple of the launches that weren't clouded out.  I'll be watching this one in the morning. 

Impressive closeup of the Delta-IV Medium rocket’s liquid-fueled RS-68A engine and the four GEM-60 solid-fueled motors sending WGS-10 to space from SLC-37B in March 2019. Photo: Alan Walters / AmericaSpace


  1. I remember the bad days when the Delta's 1st stage separation bolts were somehow on the same frequency as range-tracking ship radars. Lift up, get above the horizon and balooommmmm... a perfect rosette of explosive bolts flying away from a now defunct missile.

    I saw several of those semi-launches. It was a bad time at the Cape.

  2. Oh, and I am glad that the new ULA missile will use a US-built rocket motor, and ditching their reliance on Russian stuff.

    A little late, as SpaceX has really spanked ULA hard over launch prices and reusability.

    1. I was surprised ULA went with the Blue Origin engine. I don't know if SpaceX sells the Merlin engines, but they have lots of flight time and many engines that have flown multiple times. It seems like a business builder for Blue Origin, though.

      The link at the end of the second paragraph goes to a page on the Vulcan. There's a video mid-page that's worth the couple of minutes to watch.

    2. Well, the Blue Origin engine has proven flight worthy, while the AR1 hasn't, so...

      I hope Aerojet survives, since they were there at the beginning, but it looks more and more likely they'll dry up soon, dangit.

      I was still hoping for Aerojet Rockedyne's F1B printed and CNCed engine for the SLS system, but, no, the modernized J2 SSME won out over that.

      Seems my hopes never get fulfilled...

  3. The only job I've ever had that I miss doing was the stuff for Boeing.

    Much hard work, frustration, long hours and missed sleep, but seeing those things liftoff and lofting a big comsat to GEO was worth it!

    I wish them all well.